What Rough Beast ... Session Two Part 2 - Billy Holds a Grudge
CoC 7e Jazz Age
* * *
Michael reached forward and grabbed Billy’s ear. It hurt. The boy went completely limp and fell to the ground.
“I’m staying,” he said. “Whether you knock me out or not.”
Michael reached down and lifted the boy, throwing him over his shoulder. Then Billy tried to grab Michael’s arm, clutching at it and trying to pull it up.
“You can keep trying all you want, Billy,” Michael said confidently.
The two struggled as Michael walked towards the cemetery entrance. Ella-Marie tried to grab at Billy’s arms.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but this is for your own good,” she said.
Billy kicked Michael hard in the crotch. Michael grunted in terrible pain and tried to slam Billy down to the ground but the two of them ended up both crashing to the ground in a pile, tangled up with each other.
“I’m watching Tommy’s grave!” Billy yelled.
Michael elbowed at Billy’s face but Billy held off his arm and gut punched him.
“What is happening over there?” Teddy said.
“Hey!” Jebidiah called. “What if the wolf comes back?”
“Hey! Hey!” Ella-Marie shouted.
“I regret to inform you all but you’re both being very stupid right now!” Jebidiah said.
“Tommy could’ve gotten away and we would never have noticed,” Teddy said.
“And whose fault is that?” Billy squeaked.
Ella-Marie grabbed Michael by his shoulders and flung him back off Billy, sending the boy sprawling several feet away from his opponent.
“What is wrong with you!?!” Ella-Marie shouted at Billy. “Why do you want to stay here!?!”
“‘Cause it’s what we set out to do!” Billy squeaked.
Over by the grave, Jebidiah noticed a strange mist or fog around the mound.
“Yes, but … we don’t know where Richard is!” Ella-Marie said. “We have to leave and find him!”
“So why do all of us have to go?” Billy squeaked.
“We all have to stick together!” Ella-Marie said. “It ain’t like those radio shows! You can’t just split up! We have to stick together! Okay?”
“Okay,” Billy squeaked. “Then two of us stay here.”
“You okay?” Ella-Marie said to Michael.
Jebidiah started to make a strange wailing, hooting noise and pointing at the woods.
“What is it!?!” Ella-Marie called. “What is it!?!”
Michael stood up with a groan, holding his crotch.
“Oh my,” Teddy said. “Look at that. Oh my.”
Jebidiah continued to make strange, hooting, distressed noises.
“What are you saying!?!” Ella-Marie called.
Jebidiah said something intelligible in return. Billy got to his feet. All of them saw a low-lying mist near the woods around the edge of the cemetery. It seemed to be blowing away. There was no more mist around the place and it disappeared into the woods.
“Did you see that?” Billy said. “I think you saw that.”
Jebidiah muttered something unintelligible again.
“I wish I hadn’t seen it, actually,” he said.
Ella-Marie grabbed Michael’s arm.
“Did it come from Billy’s grave?” Billy squeaked. “Tommy’s grave.”
“It’s about to come from your grave!” Ella-Marie said.
“It looked like it, yeah,” Teddy said.
They all looked at each other.
“Okay, now we can get outta here,” Billy said. “Tommy is a vampire.”
Ella-Marie rolled her eyes. Then she felt Michael tense up as the boy went to swing. She tried to stop him but he just pulled her with him. He punched Billy in the face and the boy stumbled to one side.
“That’s for the nut shot,” he said.
He walked out of the cemetery, Ella-Marie glaring at him.
“Wait, they’re going,” Teddy said. “Let’s go. Follow them.”
“Richard still isn’t back,” Jebidiah said. “I think people forgot about him.”
The youngsters headed up the road and found Billy’s bicycle where the path to the cemetery met the road not far from the Red Bridge. A shovel was on the ground next to it.
“Oh my Good Lord, he’s died!” Jebidiah said.
“He’s dead,” Teddy agreed. “They got him. They got him! They came and got him while these people were having a rigmarole. Oh. Oh no. Oh no.”
Michael shined the flashlight on the ground.
“There’s no sign of tracks!” Teddy said. “It’s like something snatched him off the bike and flew away with him!”
“I see something!” Michael said. “Somebody crashed.”
“Oh my God,” Ella-Marie said.
Jebidiah looked around but there was nothing around them. Teddy looked really sad.
“Let’s go check his house,” Michael said. “He might be there.”
“He’s gone,” Teddy said. “Tommy flew off with him.”
“Maybe he saw something and took chase,” Jebidiah stuttered. “Or he - or he─”
“Or he fled or something,” Michael said. “We don’t know.”
“Let’s stick together,” Teddy said.
“Yes,” Ella-Marie said.
“Let’s go back to town and check his house,” Michael said.
They walked back to town, Billy biking. They went to Richard’s house and found his bedroom window closed. That was unusual as it was very hot. Michael tapped on the window. They heard a cry from within.
“Who is it?” it called. “Go away.”
“Well, good news he’s here,” Michael said.
“Ask him how many times he got bit,” Teddy said.
“Oh God!” Ella-Marie said.
“Did you get bit, Richard?” Michael said.
“You’re not the man,” Richard said.
“Man?” Michael said.
“What man?” Ella-Marie said.
Richard’s window opened and the boy peered out, wide-eyed.
“We saw your bike,” Ella-Marie said. “What happened?”
“Billy’s bike,” Michael corrected her.
“I took the turn too quickly and I crashed,” Richard said. “When I got up, there was a man. Had a weird accent.”
“How tall was he?” Michael asked.
“Was he a Yankee?” Jebidiah asked.
“He just looked like an adult man,” Richard said. “He asked if I needed help and I told him ‘no.’ I got the rifle from my dad’s bedroom and I fell over - fell over - and when I got back up - when I got back up after I fell over, he wasn’t there. And I felt like I was being watched. So I ran back home and, when I got back to my room, he was at my window. I threw a book at him and he didn’t do anything. When I grabbed my helmet, he was gone. Then I closed the window. I’ve been here ever since.”
Billy looked around. He saw the silhouette of a tall man standing by a tree not far away, watching them.
“It’s okay Richard,” Michael said. “Just calm down. We’ll be back in the morning.”
“I’m closing the window when you’re gone,” Richard said.
Billy tapped Ella-Marie’s shoulder.
“Is that the man?” he whispered to her.
“Oh …” she said.
“As long as you’re okay, Richard,” Teddy said.
“Mike,” Ella-Marie said.
“It’s a good thing he’s gone and isn’t here anymore,” Jebidiah said.
“Mike,” Ella-Marie said.
“What’s wrong?” Michael said.
When he looked over there, he saw the silhouette of the man. Billy had put his hand in his book bag.
“I would say that’s true too,” Teddy said.
“Let’s make sure Jebidiah and Teddy get home safe,” Michael said. “Then let’s head home ourselves.”
“Why, that’s very neighborly,” Teddy said. “Thank you so much.”
“Thank you,” Jebidiah said.
Ella-Marie took out both of her crosses.
“This is a very terrifying night,” Jebidiah said.
“I would agree with your interpretation of the evening’s events, Jebidiah,” Teddy said.
“There was - there was a horrible wood monster. There was a spooky fog. My friends tried to kill each other. I thought Richard was dead.”
“And Billy. I thought he was dead too.”’
“I thought Billy was dead.”
“We thought you were dead, Billy.”
“We thought you were dead, Richard.”
Richard slammed the window shut.
They all headed towards the Teddy and Jebidiah’s houses as the rain started to come down lightly. Billy kept watching the figure in the dark until it was out of sight. He felt like the man had been watching him. They returned Teddy back to his room and then Jebidiah back to his house. The boy just went in the front door. Then the other two escorted Billy home. He also went into his house by the front door. He found his grandfather sleeping in his chair.
The last two walked carefully home without incident.
* * *
Billy didn’t go to sleep that night. He sat in the dark and watched the window until the rosy light of dawn let him know the terrible night was over.
Most of the other children closed or merely cracked their windows. Jebidiah slept with his cross.
* * *
Thursday, June 20, 1929, was another hot Alabama summer day. The children who had closed their windows woke up stifling in the heat. When Jebidiah woke up, he was terrified to find the cross was gone. He found it on the floor next to his bed and guessed he had dropped it in his sleep.
The thunderstorm from the night before had left a heavy fog that burned off by midmorning.
* * *
Richard’s father was running late. He complained he had trouble sleeping the night before as he dreamt someone was in the room. His mother was busy cleaning the house. Neither noticed the young boy’s thousand yard stare. His sheets had been bloody where his scraped leg had bled after he went to bed.
After breakfast, he headed out to Michael and Ella-Marie’s house. Teddy and Jebidiah showed up shortly after that. There was no sign of Billy.
They saw Doc Underwood leaving his house with his horse and buggy and heading off that morning as well.
“Are you okay?” Ella-Marie asked Richard.
The boy had scabs running down the left side of his leg where he’d fallen the day before.
“You might need to see the doctor,” Ella-Marie said. “You might need stitches.”
“I think I’m physically fine,” Richard said. “I don’t know about mentally.”
“I’ve had some leg injuries,” Ella-Marie said.
“You didn’t see the fog,” Teddy said.
“Fog?” Richard said.
“There was fog,” Teddy said.
“That’s true,” Jebidiah said. “We should all recount what happened last night so we are all … in the know.”
“There was a terrible fight,” Teddy said.
“Except Billy,” Jebidiah said. “Who isn’t here.”
“Fire?” Richard said.
“Fight,” Teddy said. “There was a terrible fight.”
“Oh,” Richard said. “I was confused for a second.”
Teddy pointed at Michael.
“And Billy,” Teddy said.
“Why?” Richard said.
“I don’t know,” Teddy said. “We don’t know. Why were you fighting?”
“Billy didn’t want to leave the graveyard,” Michael said, matter-of-factly. “He wanted to stay there by himself. I wasn’t going to let him do that.”
“Yes, but it looks like you kicked the hell out of each other in the process,” Richard said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“While they were fighting, there was a big fog,” Jebidiah said. “You saw it the dog-thing, right?”
“Dog?” Richard said.
“There was a dog,” Teddy said. “He didn’t know about the dog.”
“Yeah, there was some kind of coyote,” Ella-Marie said.
“There was a wolf or some kind of coyote,” Jebidiah said.
“There ain’t no wolves around here,” Teddy said.
“You said vampires can be wolves.”
“It was an awful big dog.”
“It wouldn’t move!” Ella-Marie said.
“I fired at it,” Michael said.
“It disappeared like everything else we’ve been seeing,” Ella-Marie said.
“I thought something attacked you, so I got my Springfield,” Richard said. “Well, dad’s Springfield.”
“What do we do?” Teddy asked. “Well … what do y’all do?”
“The man you saw, did you recognize his voice or face?” Jebidiah asked.
“No, he sounded like … he was … not from here,” Richard said.
“Was he a Yankee?” Jebidiah asked.
“Well …” Richard said.
“How could you tell that!?!” Ella-Marie said.
“From the voice,” Jebidiah said.
“Well, they talk different,” Teddy said.
“He had …” Richard said.
“They talk like … oh!” Teddy said. “Like Billy tries to talk. But better.”
“Yes, they talk like ‘Hi. My name’s Michael. I’m from Vermont,’” Jebidiah said. “They talk like that.”
“You should be on a radio show,” Teddy said. “You do that really well.”
“That is a lot better than Billy,” Ella-Marie said.
Richard tried to mimic the man’s accent.
“That sounds just like your regular voice,” Teddy said.
“Yeah, just a little bit,” Michael said.
“Let’s just … not,” Ella-Marie said.
“If you have to pick one of us out of the group that sounds most like him,” Jebidiah said.
“Maybe you,” Richard said.
“Oh God!” Jebidiah said.
Teddy pulled the compact out his pocket and looked at Jebidiah’s reflection in the mirror.
“Teddy, I swear!” Jebidiah said. “Teddy!”
“No, you’re good,” Teddy said. “You’re good. See. Can you see yourself?”
“See, I see you. You see me?”
Richard said he thought the man was wearing a cloak and described it as going over the shoulder and almost down to the ground.
“Well, that should be easy to remember,” Teddy said.
“It just doesn’t make sense for a man to be out in the woods in the middle of the night,” Ella-Marie said.
“I would think he would have a terrible problem with sweat,” Jebidiah said.
“Not if he was dead,” Teddy muttered.
“Do dead people sweat?” Ella-Marie asked.
“I would say ‘no,’” Teddy said.
“Teddy, can we still go check his grave?” Richard said.
“Don’t vampires come back to their graves every night.”
“Traditionally they return to wherever they were placed in the ground, yes.”
“I think Teddy said if we want to definitively know, we need to dig it up,” Jebidiah said.
“This time, we’re gonna bring shovels!” Ella-Marie said.
“You really want to do this then?”
“Like I said: ‘How else?’”
“If we get caught, you realize that’s against the law,” Teddy said.
“No one’s out there, is there?” Richard said.
They realized the trees were thin enough on the river side of the graveyard that someone from the road on the other side could see the site of Tommy’s grave.
“Well, we’d have to do it at night or when nobody’s looking or …” Jebidiah said.
“If you do it at night, he won’t be in there,” Teddy said.
“Ah,” Jebidiah said.
“You don’t know that!” Ella-Marie said. “We don’t know if any of this is true. We don’t know what we’ve been seeing.”
“She’s right,” Teddy said. “It’s been very strange. But, I’m just pointing it out because …”
“Someone should keep watch and have a signal if someone comes by,” Ella-Marie said.
“And they just see a giant hole in the dirt and us standing by it, twiddling our thumbs and whistling?” Jebidiah said.
“Why no,” Teddy said. “That’s when you ‘cheese it.’ That means you run away. So the signal comes and we run away.”
“Exactly!” Ella-Marie said.
“But Teddy, you’re in a wheelchair,” Richard said.
“Well, I’ll have to roll away,” Teddy said. “Hopefully y’all will help me get away quickly. Or I can just say I was visiting the grave and I saw somebody, a tall man, digging up the grave. They’re not gonna think I was digging up the grave. I mean, look at me.”
“That’s very true,” Ella-Marie said.
“You could be the scout,” Richard suggested.
They discussed it for a little while until someone asked where Billy was.
“I think Billy’s angry at Michael,” Jebidiah said. “They’ve had a feud.”
“They had a fight,” Teddy said. “It was quite disturbing.”
“Michael, I realize you weren’t … malicious … in your intent, but I feel like, at some point, you might want to apologize to Billy,” Jebidiah said.
“That might be a good idea, Michael,” Teddy said. “Billy holds a grudge.”
“I wouldn’t want Billy to have a grudge on me,” Jebidiah said.
“You’ve seen the people he hangs out with,” Richard said.
“I heard it skips rocks at the old train station!” Jebidiah said.
“You don’t wanna be on Billy’s bad side for long,” Teddy said. “Not when we go back to school. ‘Cause his friends are crazy! His friends there are so crazy!”
“All right!” Michael said. “All right.”
“I saw ‘em beat up a four-year-old one time!” Teddy said.
“C’mon, y’all are friends,” Ella-Marie said.
“Maybe he was just small,” Teddy said.
“Y’all should know better!” Ella-Marie said.
“Smaller than Billy?” Jebidiah said.
“Wasn’t smaller than Billy,” Teddy said. “Billy wasn’t fighting. Billy was watching. I think he’s fallen in with a bad crowd.”
“Fine,” Michael said.
“I worry about Billy.”
“Didn’t he say he was going to spend some time sweeping up his grandpa’s shop the other day?’
“He always says that.”
“Do you really color Billy as the trustworthy type?” Jebidiah said.
“All right, it’s day,” Teddy said. “We split up and we look everywhere.”
“Well, it’s day. We’ll meet back at the post office when we find Billy.”
They split up, heading in all different directions, each of them getting a place to look at Teddy’s direction.
“I took command,” Teddy said quietly to Jebidiah. “Did you see that?”
“Yeah,” Jebidiah said.
“Don’t get used to it,” Ella-Marie said.
“I didn’t know you were still here,” Teddy muttered.
“Can’t you see? Whatever.”
“That’s the problem with taking command. You gotta pay attention afterwards.”
* * *
Michael was the one who found Billy. The boy had just finished sweeping the pharmacy and his grandfather patted him on the back and told Randall Spearman behind the soda fountain to give a Pepsi-Cola. Billy had a nasty-looking bruise on his face.
“Hey Billy,” Michael said.
Billy just stared into his soda. Michael ordered a root-beer float from Randall.
“Billy,” Michael said. “I’d like to sit down and have a talk about what happened last night.”
“Yeah, I wanted to sit down and have a talk last night,” Billy said.
“Except you weren’t sayin’ nothing.”
“I mean, before you punched me, I did.”
“I didn’t punch you.”
“Only after you kicked me in the groin.”
“I was going to buy you a soda but, seeing as you already got one …”
Billy just looked into his soda.
“What can I try to do to make this right with you?” Michael said.
Billy just stared into his soda as he drank it.
“Well … we’re all gonna meet up at the post office after … we found you,” Michael said. “If you want to meet us there, you can. I ain’t gonna force you.”
Billy just sipped at his Pepsi-Cola.
“Here ya go!” Randall said.
He handed over root-beer float and Michael quickly drank it down.
“Now Billy,” Michael said.
He put two quarters down on the counter in front of the boy and then walked out.
Billy looked at the money and then finished his Pepsi-Cola. He pocketed the coins and looked around to see if there were any mirrors in the pharmacy. There weren’t so he left the place and headed for the grocery store. There, he purchased a hand mirror and looked at the Albright’s in it. Then he went looking for Vanzant.
* * *
All of the children met at the post office.
“Are y’all friends again?” Teddy said.
“I dunno,” Michael said.
“Did you apologize?” Ella-Marie said.
“Yeah!” Michael said.
“What’d he say?” Jebidiah said.
“Um … he didn’t say much,” Michael said. “He … uh … just kept sipping at his soda. I gave him fifty cents and then I left.”
The children looked at the boy like he was crazy.
“You gave him fifty cents!?!” Ella-Marie said.
“Fifty cents!?!” Jebidiah said.
“He kicked you in the balls!” Ella-Marie said.
“Yeah,” Michael said.
“You trying to buy his friendship?” Teddy said quietly.
“No, I’m trying to make things right” Michael said.
“I’d be friends with anybody for fifty cents,” Jebidiah said.
“Well, you know Billy,” Teddy said.
“I’m just hoping that it could start to repair …” Michael said. “But he didn’t want to talk at the moment.”
“You never gave me fifty cents.”
“I never fought you.”
“You never beat me up, either. So I appreciate that.”
“What’re we going to do tonight?” Ella-Marie said. “Do we have a plan … this time? To bring shovels, at least.”
“We don’t want to dig him up at night,” Teddy said. “He’ll come at us, won’t he?”
“Well, when else!?! We can’t just dig him up in the frickin’ daytime!”
“Well, you-you had a plan to have a watch and see if you can see.”
“Was that in the day?”
“Yeah. We don’t need a watch at night ‘cause no one can see us in the graveyard.”
Ella-Marie just shook her head.
“She’s concerned about her brother,” Teddy said to Jebidiah. “I am too.”
“Well, we can try to wait to see what Doc says,” Jebidiah said. “He’s going out of town today.”
Teddy reminded him that Doc was going to see who was living at the plantation and might return with the sheriff. Michael thought the man wouldn’t be back until the next day but Teddy noted he was to be back that day. Jebidiah again suggested they wait for him.
“As long as we don’t get caught,” Teddy said. “My dad would kill me. I mean literally.”
“We’ve only seen one man going around the town and following Richard and at the edge of the woods when Billy saw him,” Jebidiah said. “But there are all those coffins at the mansion─”
“Wait,” Teddy said. “What man? I didn’t see no man.”
There was some confusion about the man who was stalking the town and Jebidiah noted there was only one man who had been seen but there were many coffins at the mansion. Michael suggested the coffins might not yet be in use. Jebidiah wondered if anyone was in them and, when Michael talked about breaking the locks, he suggested breaking through the wood of the coffins. Richard pointed out if they broke the coffins they would open; they wouldn’t be able to reseal them. Teddy pointed out if they broke off the locks, they wouldn’t be able to put them back on.
“Then we could close it at least,” Richard said quietly.
Michael was of the opinion they should break open the coffins and see what was in them.
“Are we talking about in the daytime?” Ella-Marie asked.
They nodded at her.
Jebidiah pointed out if they went back in the daytime, they could break them open and see if the vampires were in them. If so, then they could stake them. Teddy noted they would need a lot more stakes. There was some question about daylight hurting vampires but Teddy didn’t think it would. He even pointed out that in Dracula, Dracula walked around in the daylight, which Teddy didn’t like at all. They realized they had not seen any other strangers in Sanguis.
Michael again voted to break into the coffins. Richard asked if staking them when the vampires were corpses would kill them and Teddy assured him it would. Teddy pointed out if one chopped off a vampire’s head and filled the mouth with garlic or burned the body, or both, it could be assured they were destroyed at least according to folklore. Ella-Marie didn’t seem to like that. There was some talk of burning the vampires, Teddy noting the plantation would go up like a tinderbox if a fire was lit there. Richard suggested dragging the body out into the forest before lighting it on fire.
Jebidiah thought they should listen to what Doc learned before returning to the plantation. Richard agreed with him. Michael pointed out by that time, Doc would be getting the sheriff involved.
“If nobody owns the place,” Jebidiah said. “However, if the place is owned, that might explain our mystery person.”
“And if the sheriff is involved, isn’t that how it should be?” Teddy said. “Because they can …”
“Burn the bodies,” Richard said.
“We don’t want to go burning the house if we don’t know what’s going on!” Ella-Marie said.
“Exactly!” Jebidiah said.
“Arson is against the law as well,” Teddy said. “I don’t to go to the penitentiary.”
“We’re already digging up a body,” Ella-Marie said. “We don’t want to make it worse for us.”
“Who would be able to tell it was us?” Michael said.
“Who else would it be?” Teddy said.
Richard was under some confusion about burning vampires. When Teddy tried to explain, he had more questions. Teddy told him he’d just read stories but he didn’t know. Richard didn’t think they should be burning bodies if they didn’t have to. He asked about mist and the mist rising from Tommy’s grave.
They saw Billy walking around with a hand mirror. He went into the post office without a word. They saw him talking to Tim Bowman, the postmaster, and holding up the mirror.
“Don’t I look good?” they heard him say to the man, who just laughed.
The children realized he was using the mirror to look at Bowman.
“Hey look, Michael, he’s already spent those 50 cents,” Jebidiah said.
“Good for him,” Michael said.
Billy left the post office.
“Hi Teddy,” he said. “Hi Jebidiah. Hi Ella. Hi Richard.”
He walked on by.
“What is up with you today?” Ella-Marie said.
“I believe he might be holding a grudge,” Teddy said. “I don’t think 50 cents was enough, Michael.”
“I think if you start giving Billy any more money, though, he might take you out of house and home,” Jebidiah said. “Before he likes you again.”
“He ain’t getting a dime outta me anymore,” Michael said.
Richard was still of the opinion they should dig up Tommy’s grave as he was a vampire. Ella-Marie pointed out they didn’t know he was. Teddy noted Jebidiah had said they should wait for Doc Underwood to see what he said. Jebidiah, saying it was a democracy, thought they should reformulate a plan once they saw what Doc said. Richard pointed out that meant wasting the whole day. Teddy thought they should vote on it. When Michael asked for options, Ella-Marie told him they would decide right then what they were going to do.
“Man, I wonder how Mrs. Hill’s doing!?!” Billy shouted as he walked away.
“I know what he means!” Teddy said. “Who else would Tommy go for if he comes in the night? His mom.”
Jebidiah physically shook with terror.
Richard suggested he go check on Mrs. Hill and ask if she let anyone in who looked odd.
“Well, you’re not going by yourself!” Ella-Marie said.
“Well, it’s the middle of the day!” Richard said.
“How about this?” Jebidiah said. “We’ll go check on Mrs. Hill and then we’ll wait for Doc and, once he has the information, we’ll make a plan. That’s what I nominate.”
“You’re such a leader Jebidiah,” Teddy said.
“Oh, I’m not!” Jebidiah said.
“Oh, sometimes the meekest people …even Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s a governor,” Teddy said. “And he’s a cripple like me. At least it’s a plan. Is that plan okay with everybody?”
They called for a vote and Michael suggested they see what was in the coffins at the plantation while they waited for Doc. There was some discussion of that and Jebidiah pointed out if the plantation was owned, they could get in a lot of trouble for doing such. Teddy pointed out such trouble might include trespass, destruction of private property, and vandalism, just for a start. He noted if there were just squatters there, they could uphold the law at citizens.
“I doubt a vampire is going to go through the legal process of purchasing a home,” Michael said.
“Well, Dracula did,” Teddy pointed out. “He bought the monastery next to the asylum and he was going to live there. He had Jonathan Harker as his attorney and he arranged everything.”
“They don’t age, do they?” Richard said.
“They do age, but the blood can make ‘em young again,” Teddy said. “That’s what happened to Dracula.”
Richard noted the vampire had all the time in the world to secure the house. Jebidiah wanted to put it to a vote on going to the plantation. Michael and Ella-Marie were in favor of going to the plantation before Doc got back. Jebidiah, Teddy, and Richard voted to wait until the man returned.
“This is getting us nowhere!” Ella-Marie said.
“Then we’ll check back when we have our information,” Jebidiah said.
“Wait!” Michael said.
“I have another motion,” Richard said.
“Billy hasn’t voted,” Michael said.
“You voted for the …” Teddy said to Richard. Then he looked at Michael. “Why don’t you ask Billy what he wants to do? But tell him what you want to do first, ‘cause I think that will have some influence on Billy.”
“Sure,” Michael said.
“I propose we go see Mrs. Hill and ask her …” Richard said.
“I thought we were in agreement on that,” Jebidiah said.
Michael and Ella-Marie went to look for Billy again while the rest of them went to the Hill’s house.
* * *
Before they got to the house, Jebidiah had a plan.
“I don’t think we should ask any questions that could spook her or be confusing,” he said. “I think we should just how she reacts.”
“Oh!” Teddy said. “So just tell her were here to see how she’s doing?”
“Because if she … if she has seen Billy coming back, she might not feel bad, but if we ask, she might think she’s going crazy or she might think we think she’s crazy,” Jebidiah said.
“I was thinking I was going to ask her if she saw anyone around town,” Richard said.
“You can do that,” Jebidiah said. “But I don’t think we should ask her anything about Tommy unless we get suspicious.”
“Maybe we can ask if she’s been having dreams about Tommy,” Teddy said.
They knocked and Mrs. Hill answered. Her eyes were red as if she had been crying. Richard told her they were stopping by to see how she was doing. Teddy had slipped the compact out of his pocket and peeked at the woman’s reflection in it. Then he gave them a wink and a thumbs up.
“We just came to check on you,” Richard said again. “I know it’s been hard. It’s been hard on us too.”
“Yes, yes it has,” Mrs. Hill said. “I know you children are having a hard time. I’m having a hard time too.”
“Is there anything we can do for you.”
“No, but I thank you for coming by and looking in. If you ever want to put flowers on Tommy’s grave, I’m gonna go up there this afternoon, so …”
Tears rolled down her fact again. Jebidiah thought the woman, wracked with grief, would probably be in a better mood if Tommy had come to her in the night. He felt confident nothing was odd or off about the woman.
Richard asked if she’d seen anyone non-local around town lately. When she said she hadn’t, he told her he’d seen a man outside his window the night before and it gave him a bad fright. She said it was probably just a bad dream and she had bad dreams. She started crying again and he apologized.
Richard told her he’d keep in mind her going to the graveyard as they might join her.
“Thank you,” she said. “You boys are so good. You’re so good.”
She patted one of them on the shoulder and they left.
* * *
Billy had found Vanzant at Mrs. Pines house, standing in the shade of the trees near the river and whitewashing her picket fence. He looked at Vanzant in the mirror and was relieved he could see him. The man didn’t appear to be whitewashing with much effort and Billy guessed he was drunk or something.
Ella-Marie and Michael found the boy shortly after that.
“You really are suspicious of everyone, aren’t you?” Ella-Marie said.
“Oh, hi Ella,” Billy said. “Y’all check on Mrs. Hill?”
“No, we didn’t go over there. We came to sort out y’all.”
“Did someone check on Mrs. Hill?”
“Yes, Michael said.
“Okay, that’s good,” Billy said.
“Jebidiah, Teddy, and Richard,” Michael said.
“A lot of people,” Ella-Marie said.
“Oh, okay,” Billy said.
“Billy, what can I do to make this right between us?” Michael said.
Billy just looked at Ella-Marie.
“Well, that’s good that y’all checked up on her,” Billy said to Ella-Marie.
“C’mon!” Ella-Marie said. “He’s right here. Look at him. Please. Talk to him. Y’all are friends!”
“You see what I mean?” Michael said. “He didn’t want to talk.”
“I sure hope Doc Underwood gets back soon,” Billy said to Ella-Marie. “I’m curious to see what he says.”
“Well, if you’re going to be like this, that’s one less person we have to worry about,” Ella-Marie said.
“Oh, did someone die?” Billy said.
“Yeah, Tommy,” Michael said.
“Not yet,” Ella-Marie muttered under her breath.
“I’m gonna head on home,” Billy said. “I’m a little tired. I’m gonna eat some lunch.”
“Okay fine,” she said. “Fine. If you’re going to do what you’re going to do … whatever.”
She turned to her brother as Billy walked away.
“Look, we tried coming, talking some sense into him …” she said.
“I told you,” Michael said. “Just … he’s a sour grape.”
Ella-Marie shook her head.
“He’ll get over it,” she said to Michael.
“Probably,” Michael said. “Now, whoever said we had to keep our promise to follow the democracy? I’m just saying we could go check out the plantation ourselves without them.”
“No, I don’t want to split up. I mean, he’s off doing whatever he’s going to do … that’s on him. But for us, just trying to figure out what the hell’s going on? We gotta stick together. That’s what the majority voted. We can’t go back.”
“I guess you’re right.”
* * *